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Walking sticks

omar504

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,2017,2018
#1
A cintentious topic. This post is aimed at those who are undeciced whetherb to take them or not. the following is based on observation and comments received whilst walking from Le pUy to Santiago-about 1500 kms. The first trio I met were a group of Swiss ladies on day 3. during a break I asked the one with poles how she found them .She tossed them aside and said 'in my country they are just fashion' and said thay they served no useful purpose. A few days later I met a bloke who was a pilates teacher and taught bio mechanics in germany. He was not using poles and when I asked why he said that for this walk 'they are useless' and said that it was far more important to concentrate on the way you walked. I also saw many many walking on bitumen dutifully tap tapping away with their poles-to what purpose? I especially remember a group of 3 germans striding 3 abreast on a level bitumen road making an alarming noise with their 6 poles-frankly they looked ridiculous. Next was a French navy diver into extreme sports who also di not use them and he explained that they are intended for cross country skiing and unless you adopt the appropriate posture of bent kness, leaning forward and bent arms they serve no purpose.several have stated that they reduce knee pressure by 25%-where's the proof and is it a coincidence that it's always 25% and not 20% or 30%? It is also said that to get this benefit they need to be used 'properly' yet none of those I asked over 1500 kms knew what this meant. I assumed that the manufacturers would, as a matter of course, explain this but NONE had any information about using them 'correctly'-possibly because they are a complete waste of time.As for assisting in descents I saw 3 people have them arms wrenched back by getting these toys stuck in rocks. Another fellow had just bought a pair and said he did not know how to use them but 'thought they would be good' several hours later I saw hime walking like a Regency gentleman walking down the strand moving each arm in a semicircle-relieving pressutre off his knees?-of course not.Others have suggested they are good for fending off dogs. In 1500 kms I was menaced by 1 dog who just barked but did not approach me. Think about it-on any given day of the camino frances there would be up to 300 pilgrims passing a particular spot so it would be a very energetic dog that would bark at 300 people every day every week every year. I could give more examples but, as I said, this is aimed at those who are undecided about whether to take them.
 
#2
I have to, at least from my vantage point, agree with the aforementioned post about the use of the paired "walking poles".
I use one staff for hiking but it is not really for helping me walk better. Instead, it helps me balance upon narrow ledges in higher mountains or to cross swift-flowing rocky streams down the sides of those mountains, or for balance in the deeper ones as I edge across. I use it in front of me to keep the nightly spider webs away from my face when i walk in the early morning along densely foliaged trails, and as a 'snake flicker' for those poisonous ones i spot on the trail to flick them off it while I pass. Luckily, though, none of these occur along the Camino in Spain but I am used to carrying it, so I still carry it. As a side note, all the pilgrim statues, paintings and references I have seen always show them with only one pole-never with two. I wonder, did they already know something then which we may have forgotten now?

It is a personal thing, and a personal choice, and to each to their own.
 
Camino(s) past & future
June 2008 Camino Frances with Daughter, 2014 Camino Frances with Son
#3
In the past I was adamently against walking poles. I carried only a single wooden staff and never thought I needed anything more. This helped me keep my balance.
Two years ago, my daughter and I were hiking in the US on a long, steep decent of several kilometers. She was able to go much faster and easier with her poles than me. I did not at first believe it was because of the poles, but we traded and it was true. The poles provide you a level of balance, much like they do for skiers, that allows you to continue your motion down a trail. With a single staff or no staff, you must be much more precise in you downward motion by constantly braking yourself, primarily with your knees.

It was such a difference that I found another stick that I could use for another staff. I was able to move much faster. Had I not done this, my knees would have died well before we finished.

Having said that, I don't think poles are needed for any "road walking" or anything level. But I do believe that poles will help some on the uphills (as would a single staff) and dramatically on the downhills.
I plan to take them with me on the Camino and put them on my pack when I don't need them.

Rambler
 

jeff001

Active Member
#4
I haven't actually done the calculation but it occurred to me that even if poles or a staff DID reduce effort by 25% on steep ups and downs the increased effort of using/carrying them on the much more prevalent flat stretches would much more than offset the advantage.
 
Camino(s) past & future
June 2008 Camino Frances with Daughter, 2014 Camino Frances with Son
#5
No question they are going to take more effort in the end because your arms are not a efficient as your legs and you are carrying more weight.
Poles really are about saving your knees and possibly walking faster.
Will it burn more calories, probably. But if you have concewnrs about whether your knees can make it through all the ups and downs on the Camino, I would think you should take a pair of poles that you learned to use before going.

Mis dos pesetas...

Rambler
 
#6
when I started my camino, I didn't have poles, just a walking still I picked up in St.Jean. I found it useful getting around in the mud and not slipping and losing my balance, but that's about it.

Then I developed hip problems and really bad tendinitis in my my ankles and could barely walk, and was in excruciating pain with each step. A friend lent me his walking sticks and I found that I could walk almost normally with a lot less pain, which makes me see how useful they could be. I don't care so much about the increased speed, but about how it is obvious that it does reduce pressure on the joints. I don't care if it is 20% or 30%, but it works. Whenever I do another long walk, i will definitely bring walking sticks.
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
#7
I never used to be a walking pole person and used to think they looked silly. However, I have now acquired one.

Last year I climbed the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick in Ireland. I hitched a ride to the village where the climb started with a lovely old Irishman who told me I would need good shoes and a stick.

I thought my shoes were 'good': they were ordinary cross-training sort of shoes that I had already been walking all over Europe in. I was to discover when I slipped over on some wet rocks during a steep descent later in the day that their soles were simply not good enough in the wet. (The most unnerving part of this experience was being blown around on the ground by the strong wind that had quickly developed!)

I ignored what the old man said about a stick, despite the sight of every other walker having one, and the fact that wooden poles were readily available, cheaply, for sale at the bottom of the mountain. However, as I approached the steepest part of the climb (that comprised perhaps less than one third of the distance, but at least half of the time) a family approached me coming down. The father of the family, who saw me stickless, handed me his stick and said "Here, you'll need this". Looking at the steep, stony slope rising up ahead of me, I gratefully took the stick, and to be honest, the terrain was such that I doubt I would have safely completed the climb without it. As I myself reached the end of this steep part of the descent later, I handed the stick over to a young woman climbing without one, and told her she would need it also. But perhaps I also needed it for longer. Perhaps I would have saved myself from the dramatic fall I had, if I had been anchoring myself with the stick still in hand.

As a result of this experience, and knowing that my body is not as flexible as it used to be in my younger days, I bought a very lightweight, collapsible walking pole when I returned home. Most of the time I carry it in the loop on my pack designed for the purpose. But when I choose to use it, I have realised its huge value. The track near where I live that I have done most 'training' on so far, has steep sections that get very muddy when wet, not unlike what some early sections of the Le Puy route sound like. It is in these sections that I am very grateful for the extra point of stability and balance that helps me stay upright and not slip over (even with the good Vibram soles I am now wearing!)The other place where I have chosen to use the pole is in some shallow river/creek crossings, where the stones underneath are often mossy and slippery. Again I am sure I have been saved from coming to grief by the extra point of balance.

Poles/no poles, like everything when you walk, are a personal choice. I never used to think they were necessary, but I have changed my opinion in my case.
 
#8
I think that a lot of these comments about the need for walking poles are influenced by extreme terrain and severe injuries - certainly you'll find some mud on the Camino (though depends on season) but there are only a handful of steep sections - so yes, I'll be thankful for the Vibram soles on my walking shoes but carrying a walking pole for the rest of the walk along flat paths and roads is not worth it in my view
 
#9
As ever this depends both on personal preference and on the route which is being taken. What applies to the Camino Frances might not be adequate for other routes such as the Via de la Plata where a stick is invaluable in certain sections.
 

vinotinto

Active Member
#10
Well, I heard from a woman who ran an albergue that I didn't need my sticks because they were supposedly only used for cross-country training. But I have to chime in and say I liked my two Lekis for the following reasons:

1) I heard from two independent sources (Brierley's guidebook, and the French clerk at the Bordeaux outdoor store where I bought them) about the "25%" reduction in stress on the lower body. Since my pack was heavier than the recommended weight (especially at the beginning of my trek), I appreciated any help I could get for my aching feet.

2) Going up hills (especially rocky, uneven ones) seemed easier when I could use my upper body to help with the climbing.

3) Going down hills (especially rocky, uneven ones) was a lot easier when using the poles to help me keep my balance and prevent slippage.

4) The tapping rhythm of the sticks got to be comforting after awhile ;-)

5) I'd also heard about the dogs, and wanted to be prepared. But I never encountered any bad ones.

6) They were handy to lean on when I needed a moment's rest.

Yes, I had a couple of issues. I got mine stuck a couple of times between tiles and wooden planks on bridges, but that was more annoying than harmful. And for awhile I had a repetitive stress pain in my left wrist, but it healed up after I put a wrap on it. Overall, I'm glad I had them along. But there were many folks who didn't have them and did just fine. So, it boils down to personal preference. :)
 

evanlow

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances06
Primitivo07
Plata08
Norte12
Levante(14-15)
Vasco16
Mozarabe(16-17)
Madrid17
Portuguese18
#11
I think as long as the terrain is uneven, a walking stick or pole will be invaluable.

I walked my first camino with a stick and the second with a pole. Although I bought 2 poles, I found that only using one is good enough. As many had already mentioned here, a pole/stick is essential for support and balance when going up and down the hill. If you are young then it might not make a difference, but the older folks I believe a pole is a must.

http://camino.wificat.com
 

jeff001

Active Member
#12
I guess the terms "essential" and "older folks" are in the mind of the beholder. I am 66 and during my camino last summer I did not use a pole/stick and would not do so in the future. If you are in reasonably good condition (strength, balance, etc) you may not need them. In fact, you may find, as I have, that the additional effort required to use them is not worth the benefit they may provide.
 

omar504

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,2017,2018
#13
It's true that it comes down to personal preference but I still question the unfounded unscientific claim about '25% reduction' on the knees-which is stated as fact but sounds more like marketing hype to me. As for the tap tapping being some sort of comfort-I found it VERY annoying!
 
#14
Taking weight and pressure off knees is true. It may not be 25% but using poles does help, especially when going downhill. I believe in using a pair of poles. I am not yet 50 years old and have been athletic most of my life, but now I have developed plantar fasciitis on both feet and the poles help redistribute the weight and lessen the impact when walking. They also provide some balance when negotiating uneven terrain and make life easier for my knees. Especially when carrying a loaded pack.

The tapping is unavoidable if the pole tips aren't covered with protective boots. It's easier to maneuver them on muddy or rocky ground using the exposed metal tips. The only way to minimize the noise is to keep putting on and removing the boots each time the terrain switches from asphalt/pavement to dirt/grass -- tiring and time-consuming.

Finally, of course it's better to hike the caminos without any walking staffs or poles, but please keep in mind that for some pilgrims like me, the poles are not just for show... they are there because they are needed.

Just my 2 cents :) :wink:
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#15
I walked 650kms of the camino in sandals and relied heavily on my two walking poles, especially on the downhills. I went down the river boulder and slippery shale tacks into El Acebo and Molinaseca like a crippled crab on crutches!
PS:
Poles are great for exercising the arms and shoulders. lay them across the back of your neck, cup your hands over the ends and do a few dumb-bell lifts and a couple of swings to the left and right.
PPS: Also useful to lay across one bunk to the next and use as a makeshift washline if it is raining.
 
#16
Of course the walking sticks are necessary. To going up and down hills, against dogs (as a DEFENSIVE weapon, of course, to maintain the distances between the dog and you), to help to pass corredoiras, with barro and areas with a lot of water. Not always is necessary, but when you need it is good to have it in your hand.

Pablito, in Azqueta (Navarra) use to gift to pilgrims a walking stick since many, many years. He always explains how to walk better with it.

Buen Camino

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#17
I could not have walked 650km of the camino in sandals without the aid of my two walking poles.
Trudging through the mud from Roncesvalles to Larrasoana I got horrible blisters on both heels, the result of old favourite boots not being waterproof. In Pamplona I covered them with Compeed but by the time we reached Obanos the Compeed had disintegrated. It stuck to my socks and when I took the socks off the Compeed came with them, pulling the skin off my right heel and breaking the blister on the left.

Two days later the Compeed on the left heel came off. I dressed the heels with Antiseptic cream and Dove Pads (found in a refuge First Aid box), covered those with sports tape then covered that with a wash-up sponge for padding and was only then able to walk with my Crocs.
The walking poles were my saving grace going down rocky hills and I must have looked like a crippled crab on crutches! I bought a pair of hiking sandals in Logrono and walked in them all the way to Santiago.
 

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omar504

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,2017,2018
#18
Thanks for all the comments.I notice that Javier starts with "Of course the walking sticks are necessary" but then says "Not always is necessary". I covered the topic of dogs-I never encountered an aggressive one or heard of anyone who had-why carry a stick for hundreds of kilometres just in case?
Sillydoll seems to have found the walking sticks useful only because of poor boots. People have sometimes mentioned "rocky hills"-my experience of the proportion of the camino where these might be encountered is very very small and even then their usefulness is debatable. As I said initially my post was to give those anticipating walking the camino an alternative point of view because once people buy them they almost seem compelled to use them no matter what the terrain is like-as the example I gave of the 3 individuals resolutely using a pair of walking sticks along a flat tarmac road, which is just ridiculous.
 
#19
Yes, I mean it's necessary to take it, but not always is necessary to use it.

Sometimes you are walking by an "easy" walk and you don't need it, but suddenly you have to go up to a hill, or you can find a dog, or ...

So I always take my walking stick.

The time I found Sil between Puente la Reina and Mañeru another pilgrim from my group took my walking stick, she needed more than me. Do you remember, Sil? In "that" hill. Then she realised the walking stick can become a good friend for you in difficult situations.

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#20
Hola Javier - yes, I do remember 'that' hill - it was like something out of the Sierra Nevada!!
Finn and I walk our dogs every day and we both carry a stick. When I go hiking I carry two sticks (not in case I get blisters but because I prefer to have two sticks!) Nordic walking is taking off in a big way and there are benefits of having an upper and lower body workout whilst walking. But, as Omar says, walking with sticks is a personal thing and everyone's opinion is right - from their point of view!
 

jeff001

Active Member
#21
Sil says:
and there are benefits of having an upper and lower body workout whilst walking.
and that is really the crux of the matter. If you choose to use sticks all or most of the time you are getting an upper body workout as well as the walking workout. The question is "Do I want/need this on the camino." If you only use it/them for the steep ups and downs you are carrying that extra weight for most of the way and not using it.
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
#22
I have been in albergues where the number of trekking poles equaled the number of boots! They are essential for me as my sense of balance fades with age. Since a single ankle twist will end one's Camino almost instantly, and since there are a lot of stretches with ankle-turning cobble stones, I suggest poles. They reduce impact on knees and ankles, provide a little extra boost up a hill, tone the arms, and serve as shelter tarp supports. I plant a pole with each step, though I have watched hikers doing a pole plant each 1 1/2 step. My theory is that a pole per step maximizes balance, impact assistance, and arm exercise.

On my last pilgrimage, on day three my hands and forearms cramped at dinner from using the poles. I could barely hold a fork, and could not get any pressure on a knife! The lesson: train with the poles just as you train with your boots and pack.
 

jeff001

Active Member
#23
On the other hand (pun intended) I estimate that for every step that I could have been helped by having poles I took at least 1000, and maybe many more than that, where they would have been excess baggage. Most people who are walking 15 or so miles per day don't really need to be doing much arm toning along the way. Use poles if you really feel you need them but not just because someone else says you should.
 

omar504

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,2017,2018
#24
having just finsihed the camino mozarabe i met few people (nobody for the first 400 kms to merida) but then met a few,some of used these walking sticks. Most of the time they were carried parallel to the ground-benefit? zero. at other times through narrow tracks they were held up otherwise they would have snagged the tall grass and bushes, benefit? zero. Other admitted they were a bit of a fashion item and frankly found them a nuisance. Like the other post-excess baggage in my opnion
 

evanlow

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances06
Primitivo07
Plata08
Norte12
Levante(14-15)
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Mozarabe(16-17)
Madrid17
Portuguese18
#26
I just came back from my Camino Via de la Plata. I had with me a walking pole, which is essentially a dead weight until I got into Galicia. There I found it useful when engaging the wet ground and numerous stream crossing, and also some segments where the climb is steep.

Despite the minimum usage of the walking pole (10% or less), I would still carry one. I just need to make sure that I can easily detached for use and reattached it back to my backpack when it is no longer needed.
 

omar504

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,2017,2018
#27
Thankyou for the welcome!
Im still in santiago but will put some info up when i get back home.
suffice to say to it was "interesting"-plenty of mud,rain,no alberques between granada and
merida (400kms) and I only met one other walker-Marigold Fox and then only for 5 minutes so it was not exactly crowded.Out of merida there were many more,like 5!
anyway I will return!
 
#28
I´m in Navarette tonight but up until 2 days ago I would not have been without my walking stick- too much mud and way too slippery. Don´t know what the rest of the Camino will bring, but <i am happy with mine.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#29
Hi Marnie,
Have you found that all the fretting before hand, all the planning to carry maps, worrying about accommodation just falls away once you are walking? I'd love to know how your Mariposa backpack bears up to the camino. I am still thinking of buying a new pack and am trying to decide between the Mariposa from the USA and the OMM 32L from the UK.
Keep warm and dry, enjoy the albergue in the bell tower in Granon and the little chapel in Tosantos.
Pilgrim hugs,
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
#30
Of course, do your own Camino. If you don't like trekking poles, don't use them. My pair are made of Titanal, and weigh less than 14 oz total. Their weight is usually borne by the ground. I was doing a training hike a decade ago and touting the benefits of trekking pole to my companion. He laughed it off. About 10 paces later, he tripped on a rock and did a full face plant with a full pack on his back. We had to sit for thirty minutes before he recovered enough to continue, and his face abrasions took a month to heal. We did the real hike in Philmont Scout Ranch shortly after. We reached a wide, fast flowing creek with just a log across it. I extended the length of my trekking poles to the creek bed, and edged my way across the log. He thought about it a while, then asked me to toss him the poles so he could get across. "Be prepared. That's the Boy Scout marching song." (Tom Lehrer)

I personally have little lateral balance left at age 62. With a pack, I estimate that I would stagger off the path about once per hour! Trekking poles have given me the stability on the frequent cobblestone paths of the Camino to prevent turning an ankle. I have watched younger walkers jump from rock to rock, but my knees no longer have a "jump" left in them. There may even be a steep hill or two that I have not fallen down thanks to the poles!I now have over 1,000 miles of Camino in France and Spain without tendonitis, twisted knee, or turned ankle. A single ankle sprain is likely to end your pilgrimage instantly. Just as a helmet is good protection on a bicycle, I think trekking poles are good protection on foot.

Younger hikers who are physically fit should consider that what they do now affects them in the decades to come. You can never tell whether the stress you reduce today on your knees and ankles will preserve the connective tissue in the future. Do you know any superb football players (as the term is used in Europe or the U.S.) who can barely walk today? The best basketball player I ever knew personally is recovering from his first hip replacement, and having the second hip replaced in November. He never guessed the end result of years of jogging!

Still, I agree with the comments that urge each to be himself. The hubris of youth aside, that is excellent advice.
 

notion900

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
>
#31
Just thought I'd put my oar (or pole) in here... I just did the Camino and then another 600km in New Zealand. I could not have done this without poles. I started without any, then got a single stick around Pamplona when my knees started to hurt. I found I was having to swap sides all the time. Finally in Burgos I bought cheap (18 euro each) poles. It took a while to get used to them. Thanks to George from Czech Republic for teaching me how to use them: and this is my point - you need to be shown how to use them properly. I'll try to describe: on level even ground, you place the pole EVERY step, timed with the OPPOSITE foot. You place them level with your feet, not way out ahead. Imagine you are swinging your arms as you walk to settle on the rhythm. On steep ascents, hold them further down the shaft and use them a bit like an ice axe. On descents, place them carefully and lean on them to save your knees. Don't use the wrist straps when on steep ground in case you fall and they snag your arm (I actually never use them). Poles are only useless when the ground is so steep that you need your hands to climb, and this occurs nowhere on the Camino Frances. Generally you need to put in upper body effort for them to have any benefit: I saw endless people on the Camino tap-tapping away with them, putting no weight on them at all, which is utterly pointless. If you are using them correctly your arms will ache a bit at the end of the day. To sum up, the main benefits are: lessens knee pain, gives an upper body workout (I got into rock climbing lately, which was helped a lot by the pole-induced muscles I built up), and enables you to walk faster on the flat. And in New Zealand helped me wade across rivers. Oh and makes you feel safer with farm dogs (only met friendly ones in Spain though). Take a couple of pairs of spare rubber tips, for the tarmac places, to stop the annoying noise.
 

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